Mill Bay, BC worker image 1

Mill Bay BC Canada

Latitude: 48° 38' 21" N
Longitude: 123° 32' 2555" W
Elevation: 35m

Mill Bay, BC worker image 2

About the Mill Bay, BC Weather Cam

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As part of my Mill Bay Weather Station Project I wanted to add a web cam to the system. My requirements were as follows:
  • The camera was to be extraneous to the existing system of X10 wired (NightWatch II) and wireless cameras (Instant-On XCam2 and XCam2 WideEye) that are used for video monitoring and security around the property.

  • The selected camera was to have higher quality optics, and a better scan rate than the existing X10 XCams, so that the resulting images would be crisp and clear.

  • I wanted the ability to relocate the camera easily so that I could move it around to find a good final location, and so that I could temporarily move the cam to monitor the pool, front yard, or even the orchard should the need arise.

  • The total Weather Cam system had to be of reasonable cost.

  • The selected system(s) had to easily integrate into the existing high-tech infrastructure within my residence.

The Video Equipment

A Cannon ES500 Video Camera was chosen as the video source, mainly because this camera was already available to me.

Mill Bay, BC weather web cam image The Canon ES500 video camera is an 8mm analog video camera with a 12X power zoom. Since this camera was to be on 7/24, I removed the rechargeable battery and inserted an AC adaptor to provide the necessary power for full-time recording.

  • Power Supply (rated) - 6 V DC
  • Power Consumption - 7 W (autofocus recording, not using the zoom)
  • Television system - EIA standard (525 lines, 60 fields) NTSC color signal
  • Video Recording system - 2 rotary heads, helical scanning system. Luminance signal: FM azimuth recording. Chrominance signal: Converted subcarrier phase invert recording (8mm video standard)
  • Audio recording system - Frequency multiplexing with the video signal by 2 rotary heads (1 channel)
  • Image sensor - 1/3 inch CCD (charge-coupled device), 270,000 pixels (250,000 effective pixels)
  • Tape format - 8mm videocassette, metal particle
  • Tape speed - 9/16 ips (14.345 mm/s)
  • Maximum recording time - 2.5 hours (with a P6-150 cassette)
  • Fast Forward / Rewind time - Approx. 6 minutes (with a P6-120 cassette)
  • Lens - f/1.8-2.8, 12X power zoom, 5.2-62.4mm (2X power zoom, approx. 3.6-7.2 mm using wide adapter)
  • Focusing system - TTL autofocus, manual focusing possible
  • Minimum focusing distance - Wide-angle end: 3/8 in (1 cm) Telephoto end: 2ft 8in (80cm) Intermediate zoom position: 3ft 4in (1m)
  • Minimum illumination - 2 lux
  • Recommended illumination - More than 100 lux
  • Electronic viewfinder - 0.7 inch color lcd with approx. 103,000 pixels
  • Microphone - Non directional electret condenser microphone
  • Input level - Video terminal: 1 Vp-p/75 ohms, unbalanced. Audio terminal: -10 dBV, more than 47 kohms, unbalanced.
  • Output level - Video terminal: 1 Vp-p/75 ohms, unbalanced. Audio terminal: -10 dBV, less than 3 kohms, unbalanced.
  • Operating temperature range - 32d - 104d F (0-40 D Celsius)
  • Dimensions - 4 1/8 X 4 1/8 X 7 9/16
  • Weight - 1lb 13oz

The camera's power adaptor was plugged into a 3-prong X10 appliance module (AM466) so that the camera hardware could be easily and simply controlled by the Home Automation server.

Mill Bay, BC weather web cam image 2 I mounted the camera onto a small, adjustable, aluminum tripod allowing me to easily position, aim and, focus the Weather Cam.

I wanted the camera side of my Weather Cam system to be easily relocated so I decided to use a wireless video sender to transmit the video stream from the camera to a wireless video receiver connected to the Weather Cam server. Although there are many of comparable products available from a number of manufacturers, I had already purchased a number of X10 XCam2 color wireless cameras, and so I chose to use X10 branded Video Sender/Receiver products.

Although the Canon ES500 has an audio-out jack the camera is located inside in my office meaning that there is no need to record audio. On the camera side, I chose to use a X10 VT32A small "Video-only Transmitter". The video-out jack from the Canon ES500 was connected to the video-in port on the VT32A using a standard RCA phono cable.

Mill Bay, BC weather web cam wireless transmitter I mounted the VT32A high on the wall of my office allowing a cleaner, stronger signal to easily pass throughout the house.

To receive the wireless video signals at the Weather Cam server I chose to use the X10 VR36A, a "Video-Only Wireless Receiver". I connected the video-out from the VR36A to the RCA video-in port on the Weather Cam server's AV module using a standard RCA phono cable.

Computer Hardware and Software

Initially I set up the Weather Cam server on an Apple Macintosh 6100/60 AV with a 240MHz G3 upgrade card. Since I am already running a number of servers within the house (including several web servers, mail, streaming MP3, home automation, etc) I really wanted, if at all possible, to run the Weather Cam on one of my already existing servers.

Mill Bay, BC weather web cam server With a little bit of juggling, a bit more RAM, and a bigger hard drive I was able to connect the X10 wireless video receiver to the computer that I am using as my home automation server.

This computer is a beige Apple Macintosh G3/300 AV MiniTower with 256 MB RAM, two hard drives (1.8GB and 4.0GB), and a Deltec UPS.

Applescript is used extensively on this server to manage home automation functions for the Home Automation Server, for the Mill Bay Weather Station Project, and now for the Mill Bay British Columbia Weather Cam.

The Apple Video Player software, designed for use with Macintosh AV hardware, is extensively Apple-scriptable making it a good choice for this particular application. Still cam images and movies can be triggered and saved to disk using simple Applescript commands.

I wrote routines to capture the current cam image, add a date/time label, and then to store the resulting jpeg picture into the correct directory on the web server. I also wrote code to move, rename, archive and delete the individual cam images. The most recent 15 images (75 minutes) are stored on the server for quick and easy viewing. Images older than 75 minutes are moved to a folder and stored until they needed to create the time-lapse movie for the day.

Each night, just after midnight, a time-lapse movie is created using all of the individual cam images from the previous day. These Quicktime time-lapse movies are stored for one week. Movies older than seven days are deleted to conserve free hard drive space.


The resulting system provides satisfactory results, easily meeting the stated project goals.

Since I already had the server, and the Canon video camera, the only new hardware purchased for this project was a X10 video sender (VT32A) and a video receiver (VR36A). These two items were purchased through EBay for under $25 USD each including shipping.

If I decide to expand this project areas where future development may occur include:

  • The addition of another VR36A so that I can also review any of the current XCam2 security cameras in a similar manner. This will require the use of the S-video input on the Weather Cam server to provide a second video channel.

  • Email and pager notifications of motion events.

  • Upgrading the entire system (including the server hardware) to OS X.

Feedback, comments and suggestions are welcome. Contact Black Pearl Computing Ltd

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©2004 Black Pearl Computing Ltd.     Questions? Contact Black Pearl Computing Ltd
Created: 8/10/2004 Last updated: 9/15/2004 by CP Woytowich